One pandemic, two governors

It is Wednesday. We’ll be watching two governors fare as the coronavirus crisis continues and pandemic fatigue mounts. We’ll also take a quick look at a shirt story.

The New Jersey governor’s race has become one of the first national competitions to focus on how voters respond to strict coronavirus mandates. In New York, where Governor Kathy Hochul has expanded vaccine mandates in the 50 days since she was sworn in, a poll released Tuesday showed she leads the likely Democratic field.

After such an opening, you would expect this to be a story of two governors, both Democrats. But this is really a story of November, when New Jersey holds its elections, and next June, when New York holds its Democratic primaries.

New Jersey first. The contest there is clearly defined: Governor Philip Murphy faces off against Jack Ciatarelli, a Republican known for his moderate views when he was a state councilman. But Ciattarelli has taken the right course, tackling issues that bolster Donald Trump’s conservative base, such as Murphy’s order that face coverings are mandatory for children ages 2 and up in daycare centers.

Hochul’s opponents in New York are hypothetical for now. She is the only Democrat to run for office. None of the other two officials in matchups in the Marist Institute for Public Opinion poll — Letitia James, the state attorney general, nor Jumaane Williams, New York City’s public advocate — have done so.

Some political strategists I spoke to on Tuesday said the New Jersey race could indicate whether Republicans are as energetic as Democrats were a year ago; my colleague Tracey Tully writes that attendance is seen as an essential element in Ciatarelli’s calculations for next month.

In New York City, where the election will take place in 13 months, Hochul began building a statewide campaign when Andrew Cuomo stepped down in August and became governor. Cuomo had repeatedly attacked the investigation that eventually led to his departure—an investigation led by James’s office—as politically motivated.

My colleague Luis Ferré-Sadurní writes that, judging by the Marist poll, Hochul’s efforts seem to be paying off. In a hypothetical three-way primary, 44 percent of New York Democrats said they would vote for Hochul, 28 percent for James and 15 for Williams. Another 13 percent said they were undecided.

What if Cuomo ran again? Voters again favored Hochul in a four-way race, including Cuomo, who left office with $18 million in campaign contributions. The poll showed that 36 percent would vote for Hochul, 24 percent for James, 19 percent for Cuomo and 9 percent for Williams. The remaining 12 percent said they were not sure.

Hochul has made responding to the impact of the pandemic a top priority, implementing vaccine mandates and accelerating coronavirus relief funds for struggling renters and undocumented immigrants. Murphy, in New Jersey, was one of the last governors in the country to drop a statewide indoor mask mandate.

That was at the beginning of summer. Two months later, when cases rose again as the highly contagious Delta virus spread, he “strongly recommended” that people wear masks indoors again.

But he said people who work in schools, nurseries and health facilities could be vaccinated or tested regularly, an opt-out of concern to the influential New Jersey teachers’ union, a longtime ally of Murphy. New York City, on the other hand, does not have an opt-out for teachers or health professionals.

Polls have given Murphy some of his highest marks for how he has handled the pandemic. He has said he saw it as one of the defining issues that set him apart from Ciattarelli, who attacked Murphy’s mask rule for children in daycare. “This is unconstitutional, un-American and has no scientific basis,” said a recent email to raise money from Ciattarelli and his running mate, Diane Allen.


Oh, that patchy early morning mist. It will give way to a mostly cloudy day with temperatures in the mid 70’s. They will drop to the low 60s in the evening, with a still cloudy sky.

alternate parking

Valid until November 1 (All Saints Day).

Nelson Mandela, who was recognized as a world hero, was also recognizable. His colorful, somewhat casual-looking shirts set him apart from what the fashion historian Valerie Steele called “the conventional male ruling class look.”

Ten of Mandela’s shirts are on display from today in the museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she is director and chief curator. The shirts were shipped from South Africa by Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe Mandela and a granddaughter, Tukwini, according to Arlan Ettinger, the president of Manhattan auction house Guernsey’s.

He said the exhibition was a prelude to an auction in December to raise money for a memorial garden in Qunu, Mandela’s birthplace, where Mandela was buried in 2013.

Perhaps the most formal shirt in the exhibit was the shirt Mandela wore to meet Queen Elizabeth II. Mandela wore it the way he wore all shirts, not tucked in and with slacks. Back home in South Africa, the shirts stood out in contrast to the dark suits worn by government officials.

Some South African historians have noted that the shirts are not traditionally African. Mandela is said to have discovered them after seeing the Indonesian dictator Suharto in the mid-1990s. Steele said that Suharto’s strong predecessor, Sukarno, preferred the look in the 1950s.

Mandela liked it, Yusuf Surtee, who owned a chain of men’s stores in South Africa, recalls in 1997, “and wanted one in his image.” Soon, admirers were sending Mandela shirts, so much so that he rarely wore the same one twice. Steele said they became “the symbol of freedom after apartheid, not only his freedom, but also that of the country.”

“The fact that Mandela really preferred these shirts seems to me a rejection of Western power conventions and a sign of his ties to all those people in Africa and Asia who struggled against colonialism and political impression,” she said.

Only one three-piece pinstripe suit is in the exhibition.

“He decided you wear a suit sometimes,” Steele said.

Dear Diary:

The Q to Brooklyn can be busier at midnight than in the afternoon: moms with strollers; elderly women with shopping carts; girlfriends share earphones and mouthing texts. It all makes for a comforting sight at that late hour.

On this particular night, the car I was in was empty except for three men who were equally spaced across from me.

As the train rattled over the Manhattan Bridge, I closed my eyes to the fluorescent lights, my thoughts tumbling into the dark waters of the East River below.

I heard what I thought a woman was singing softly. Startled, I looked up at the three men across from me: an elderly man studying a small book intently; a young punk leaning forward and swiping his phone; and a tall construction worker rocking his helmet while he slept, his mouth slightly open.

I must have fallen asleep too, I thought to myself.

The train went underground again and I dropped my eyelids. I heard the beautiful voice rise again, this time more confident, and a few notes of what sounded like opera. I tried to figure out where it came from, but the melody stopped.

Just the same three men, in the same positions.

I got off the train on Seventh Avenue and so did the construction worker. As I walked up the stairs, he broke into full song after me. We went in different directions, but I heard his rising falsetto as he bounced off the buildings, filling the night sky.

I could still hear it faintly as I locked the door to my apartment two blocks away.

— Michelle Fawcett

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. I see you tomorrow. — JB

PS Here’s today’s Mini crossword puzzle and game competition. Here you will find all our puzzles.

Melissa Guerrero, Andrew Hinderaker, Rick Martinez and Olivia Parker contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at:

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